Pharmaceutical Companies Back Prescription Program

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(Host) Pharmaceutical companies are underwriting a new program in Vermont that they say will help uninsured and under-insured people who are struggling to pay for prescriptions. VPR’s Kirk Carapezza reports.

(Carapezza) The Montpelier-based non-profit Vermont Rx Card has launched the program. It’s designed to give residents discounts on medications at local pharmacies.

Alix Cousins, the director of the program, says it’s completely funded by pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, and it’s free to anyone living or working in the state.

(Cousins) "On average the savings are around 30 percent, but they can be as high as 75 or 80 percent on some drugs. It just depends on the actual drug. We definitely want to make sure as many people benefit from this program as possible."

(Carapezza) About 10 percent of Vermont’s population is uninsured. Stephanie Winters with the Vermont Medical Society says many people are without necessary medications because they simply can’t afford them.

Winters says the state’s doctors will work with the Vermont Rx Program.

(Winters) "Physicians know that the medical care that they provide is only effective if patients are able to get the medicine that the doctors prescribe them. And, unfortunately, we often hear from our members they care for have to make the agonizing choice between putting food on the table and getting their prescriptions."

(Carapezza) Mark Larson is the commissioner of Vermont Health Access. He says for many the choice between drugs and food has become even more pressing during the recession.

Larson says the average patient shouldn’t be concerned that the program is funded by drug makers themselves.

(Larson) "Things would be better if prescriptions cost less. That would be the ultimate solution. But certainly if there is a way that people can have greater access to the drugs that they need, it’s hard to complain."

(Carapezza) The discount card is accepted at almost every chain and independent pharmacy in the state, and there are no eligibility requirements or enrollment forms.

For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza

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